Armor: South Korea Competes


November 20, 2020: South Korean combat vehicle manufacturer Hyundai won the contract to build the third and last batch of K808 and K806 wheeled combat vehicles. These will be delivered by 2023. Hyundai designed the K808/806 vehicles, which won a design competition with two other South Korean firms. All three firms can build these vehicles, which is why there was a competition for each batch. Hyundai had an edge and used it to win all three batch orders. The K808 is an 8x8 wheeled combat vehicle similar to the American Stryker in design and function. The K806 is a 6x6 version of the K808 and intended for rear area defense.

Back in 2016 the South Korean Army ordered 600 K808/806 wheeled armored vehicles with deliveries to begin by the end of 2016 and completed by 2023. Delivery of the first batch was completed in 2018, the second batch completes delivery in 2020 and the third batch in 2023. Hyundai has an assembly line that can build about a hundred of these vehicles a year. The second and third batches incorporate modifications suggested or required based on experience with earlier vehicles.

Most (500) of the vehicles delivered are the 20-ton 8x8 K808, which carries 12 (two crew and ten passengers) and is armed with a 30mm autocannon and 7.62mm machine-gun. The K808 has a top road speed of 110 kilometers an hour and in water can do ten kilometers an hour. The 16-ton 6x6 K806 is mainly for reconnaissance and internal security. The K806 can also carry twelve and is armed with a 40mm automatic grenade launcher and 7.62mm machine-gun.

Development of the K806 and K808 began in 2012 when the South Korean army asked Hyundai for a locally designed wheeled armored vehicles similar to the American Stryker. This meant a successful design was guaranteed an army order and production could begin quickly. Hyundai had actually designed the K808 in 2012 with their own money, believing that the South Korean forces might need it and the export markets definitely sought this type of combat vehicle.

Private development of combat vehicles just for export is common in East Asia. Several Chinese firms do it and another South Korean manufacturer (Doosan) that created the South Korean Army K21 tracked IFV (Infantry Fighting Vehicle) went ahead and developed the 18 ton, 8x8 Black Fox, mainly for the export market. Black Fox could be equipped with the turret from the K21. This, in effect, creates a wheeled armored vehicle carrying light artillery (a 40mm autoloading cannon). This weapon fires up to 300 rounds per minute, at speeds of 1,000 meters per second (3,100 fps). The Black Fox has a crew of three and carries nine passengers. Fox was built in the hopes of snagging domestic or foreign sales and it, and similar Doosan wheeled armored vehicles, have done just that. But Doosan found that cheaper was always an easier sell so vehicles like Black Fox also come in less expensive and lighter 6x6 versions. The Doosan vehicles were meant for export markets although they were proposed as candidates to be the South Korean Stryker. The Doosan vehicles lost out to the K808 and K806.

Doosan has recently offered a custom version of the K21 called Redback to Australia, which is conducting a competition for a new IFV. The two the finalists are the K21 variant, the 42 ton AS-21 Redback and the German Lynx. Both vehicles are similar tracked IFVs. Both are heavily armed and armored. Both weigh about the same (42-tons) and carry a crew of three and eight infantrymen. Both are armed with 30mm autocannon and one or two 12.7mm machine-guns. Three AS-21s and three Lynx are spending several months being tested by Australian troops. The winner of the $15 billion contract to deliver 400 vehicles won’t be announced until 2022, once the tests are completed by late 2021.




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